PhillyDeals: When the flock departs, who will move in?

The Church of the Assumption would have been demolished if a nonprofit had gotten city approval. It's for sale now.
The Church of the Assumption would have been demolished if a nonprofit had gotten city approval. It's for sale now. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 18, 2011

The population shifts of Catholics in Philadelphia raise the question of what's the best use for the empty former church-school-convent-rectory complexes, especially in the recovering neighborhoods around Center City.

Some are suited for apartments, like St. Agatha in West Philly, which went residential in the 1990s. But others, including the sprawling centers built for long-vanished immigrants in the mid-1800s, need millions in repairs, and find few likely buyers, other than developers who would like to knock the old structures flat.

The former Church of the Assumption at 11th and Spring Garden Streets is for sale, with its neighboring former school and residence, after the nonprofit Siloam AIDS ministry found it was unable to win city approval to demolish the angular, worn, stone-and-plaster temple over opposition from the Callowhill Neighborhood Association.

Siloam has hired James Scott and Michael Barmash of the brokerage Colliers International to find a buyer. The group is selling "with great sadness," interim Siloam boss Cathy Maguire said in a statement. Siloam had hoped to build an HIV/AIDS service center on site. Maguire hopes to raise about $1.7 million.

The former St. Anthony of Padua church at 23d and Fitzwater Streets, in the onetime Irish immigrant neighborhood of Schuylkill (now Southwest Center City), is also for sale by its current owner, Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church.

The predominantly African American congregation is moving to a site north of Center City with more parking, says Andrea Boelter, who is helping broker Mike McCann manage the sale at Prudential Fox & Roach.

St. Matthew's says it agreed to buy the property for a modest $325,000 in 1999. Since then the neighborhood, facing Toll's Naval Square, has boomed as yuppie homebuyers moved in. Penn and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia plan to expand nearby. Prudential is asking $2.5 million.


o hotel

Homebuilder Toll Bros., of Horsham, has until Aug. 31 to exercise an option to acquire the long-vacant site of the NewMarket restaurant and retail center - between Front and Second and Pine and Lombard, on the east end of Society Hill - for a condominium development.

Toll's informal proposal, as presented to members of the Society Hill Civic Association and other neighbors in recent meetings, is for a four-story complex of about 70 brick-fronted, wood-frame condos, 90 underground parking spaces, and no retail or restaurants. Prices would start in the $400,000 range for one-bedroom spaces. Toll hopes to start work this year.

That's more modest than Bridgman Development's 2008 Stamper Square plan for the site, which included 150 hotel rooms, 77 condos, and 350 parking spaces in a 15-story tower. But the Stamper proposal depended on city zoning revisions that expired in June, Bill Kramer, division director for development planning at the city Planning Commission, told me.

The site is controlled by Larry Linksman's Bridge Funding, a New York financing firm, according to city records. Toll, Linksman, and lawyers for Stamper didn't return calls.

Toll's proposal is managed by the company's Brooklyn-based urban residential unit. The company has been building city developments in rich neighborhoods of New York, Hoboken, and Center City since suburban home sales collapsed in 2008.

Auto repair

EDiS, the Wilmington- and West Chester-based construction business that's been operated since 1908 by five generations of the Italian- immigrant DiSabatino family, has been named general contractor for Fisker Automotive's renovation of the former General Motors plant in Stanton, just outside Wilmington, reports the Wilmington News-Journal.

The federally financed, $175 million rebuild of the Stanton site is supposed to turn the old Saturn plant into a hybrid electric-and-gas-powered car factory.

EDiS is also working on the former Chrysler plant in Newark, Del., where the firm is building a bio lab for the University of Delaware.

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or Follow him @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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